Panama Canal

July 27, 1999

A key issue in the 1976 election was the Panama Canal giveaway. Now on the eve of that transfer, I think it's time that the Panama Canal once again become a campaign issue. Ronald Reagan made an issue over the canal but lost to Gerald Ford who lost to Jimmy Carter who signed a treaty in 1977 giving the canal to Panama by the end of this year. Although most Americans have forgotten about the issue, they'd better wake up to what might happen.

Theoretically the canal is being transferred to Panama. But Panama is a tiny country of only 2.8 million that doesn't even have an army. In essence, the canal is being transferred to whichever power moves in to fill the vacuum left by the United States. And no longer do we have to guess which power that might be. China has filled the vacuum.

Two years ago, newspapers reported that the government in Panama sold the Chinese rights to two prime, American-built port facilities that flank the canal zone both to the east and the west. This 50-year contract awarded Balboa (on the Pacific side) and Cristobal (on the Atlantic side) to a giant Hong Kong shipping firm with close ties to China's major shipping company.

When the Panama Canal treaty was negotiated more than twenty years ago, circumstances were different than they are today. China is now exercising a presence over the region and could affect shipping and military operations. Naval vessels using the canal cut 8,000 miles off a trip around the tip of South America, saving as much as two weeks of transport time. If America lost access to the canal, it would be significant. I think it's time for another debate.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.